(Jacqueline Cochran Odlum)
Birthplace: Pensacola, Fla.
A decorated pilot, Cochran, at the time of her death, held more aviation records than any other pilot—male or female—in history.
An orphan, Cochran went to work in a Georgia cotton mill at age 8. By age 10 she was training to be a hair stylist. After working in several salons in the South, Cochran landed in New York City in the early 1930s. She first took flying lessons in 1932 and was instantly hooked. She established a cosmetics company in 1934. It prospered, thus allowing her to pursue her passion for flying. In 1935 Cochran competed in the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race. She placed third in 1937 and won the race in 1938. In 1941 she flew a bomber to England, where she became a flight captain in the British Air Transport Auxiliary, training other women pilots to ferry aircraft for the British. She returned to the United States and organized and served as director of a similar program, the Women's Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs). She was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945 and commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1948.
On May 18, 1953 Cochran became the first woman to break the sound barrier, flying 625.5 miles per hour in an F-86 Sabre. She continued to set records, traveling 1,429 miles per hour, twice the speed of sound, on June 3, 1964, in an F-104G Starfighter. She also set an altitude record (55,253 feet) in 1961 and was the first woman to make a “blind” landing. She wrote her autobiography, The Stars at Noon (1954), with her husband, Floyd Odlum.Died: Indio, Calif., 8/9/1980